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WVU sports radio network growing without Raese stations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- IMG College's inability to sign up any of Morgantown businessman John Raese's stable of 29 radio stations in West Virginia could leave parts of the state without game-day radio coverage of WVU football contests this fall.

However, an IMG spokesman said the media firm is working quickly to sign up affiliates across the state -- and still holds out hope that at least some of Raese's stations might join the new Mountaineer Sports Network.

WVU's first football game is Aug. 31, against William & Mary.

"There are an abundance of radio outlets across the state with big signals, a listener base passionate for Mountaineer football, and a strong desire to carry WVU sports," said Andrew Giangola, an IMG spokesman.

In July, WVU struck an $80 million sports media rights deal with Winston Salem, N.C.-based IMG College, the same company selected earlier in the year before an Attorney General's Office review of bid-rigging allegations prompted university officials to solicit contract proposals a second time.

Raese's company, West Virginia Radio, which has handled WVU football and basketball broadcasts for decades, filed suit against WVU to block the deal. Raese's lawyers allege that WVU's selection of IMG was a "sham" that benefited university "insiders," including former Board of Governors chairman Drew Payne and board member Dave Alvarez.

Since July, IMG and WVU have signed up more than 20 radio stations across the state -- but no stations owned and operated by Raese.

Without Raese's stations, radio listeners in Elkins, Buckhannon and Weston, and the Potomac Highlands region might have a difficult time finding radio coverage of WVU football and basketball games.

Giangola said IMG has "reached out to West Virginia Radio . . . in an effort to partner with their stations.

"The door remains open," he said.

West Virginia Radio President Dale Miller did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

This past week, IMG announced that it has added new affiliates in Sutton, Fayetteville, Ronceverte and Morgantown.

"In just a few weeks, we have seen extremely strong pick-up of the Mountaineer Network from IMG among a solid group of stations," Giangola said.

The media firm has yet to sign an agreement with an affiliate in Charleston, but Giangola said talks for additional stations are ongoing.

"As we build the WVU network, we'll continue to talk to stations up and down the dial across West Virginia," Giangola said. "We anticipate having more affiliate announcements in the coming days."

IMG plans to partner on the 12-year media deal with West Virginia Media Holdings, which has four television stations. The Charleston-based media firm will develop TV programming for WVU athletic events.

IMG will handle pre- and post-game football and basketball shows previously broadcast by West Virginia Radio and its affiliate stations. IMG has said it will expand football pre-game shows from one hour to 3.5 hours and post-game shows from 30 minutes to two hours.

IMG has contracts with more than 90 universities, including Big 12 Conference WVU opponents Baylor, Kansas, Texas Christian and Texas.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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